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JRL Ventures/Marine Concepts pick up community business award

By Staff | Nov 5, 2010

By tapping into its talented staff and state-of the-art technology, one Cape Coral company found a way to diversify and survive the economic downturn.
Marine Concepts/JRL Ventures recently was recognized for triumphing over adversity and sharing its story so others could learn from its experience. On Thursday, the sister businesses received the 16th annual Southwest Florida Blue Chip Community Business Award.
“It was quite an honor because there were a lot of good companies up for it,” Bob Long, owner and chief executive officer of Marine Concepts/JRL Ventures, said.
Created in 1976, Marine Concepts is a composites tools and fiberglass parts manufacturer, according to its website. A full-service supplier, it can provide design and engineering on though to the final product, from large yacht hulls to small detailed parts.
JRL Ventures was developed in 1994 when Long and his wife, Karen, purchased Marine Concepts. In 2005, the growing number of non-marine projects brought about the naming of Marine Concepts’ sister business.
Long brought Matt Chambers on for new business development.
“We kind of got a jump on it,” he said of the declining economy.
Chambers said the company looked outside of the marine industry, which had been the business’ primary market, and targeted other potential clients.
“We knew we had to have some diversification,” he said.
JRL Ventures currently performs design and engineering services and produces tooling for the RV, construction, aerospace, theme park, heavy equipment and automotive industries, as well as the U.S. military and wind power companies, its website states.
In finding what worked and what did not, Marine Concepts/JRL Ventures found its way to a manufacturing industry that still was in the old ages.
“They were using all the old-fashioned way of building molds,” Chambers said.
With its technology and modern equipment, including five-axis and three-axis mills — router-like machines that shave out molds and have the ability to move in any direction — JRL Ventures could offer precision while speeding up the process. A project that once took six months now took only two weeks.
With their skilled team on hand, the company also could offer service from start to finish on a project.
“That was one of our competitive advantages,” Chambers said.
Still, despite a head start into searching for other revenue streams, when the economy began to drop, Marine Concepts/JRL Ventures felt the heat. It reacted by eliminating company-matched 401K contributions and overtime pay. Next was cutting hours and pay, along with tossing out paid holidays.
Long said a company that once employed 140 people, shrunk to 30.
“When it started to drop off, it went pretty fast,” he said. “But we were determined to hold onto the good people. It was important to keep our good people.”
By March and April of 2009, the company hit bottom, then things changed.
Marine projects continued to fluctuate, or not exist, but the non-marine projects taken on by JRL Ventures began to increase. New companies signed on, and Marine Concepts/JRL Ventures has increased its staff level to 87.
Chambers said the marine and non-marine revenues are split 60/40.
“They’re both coming back up,” he said. “The idea is to keep growing them both.”
B. Pat O’Rourke, a business development specialist with the Fort Myers Regional Partnership, nominated Marine Concepts/JRL Ventures for the Blue Chip award. He said they really “fit the ‘mold.'”
“It’s been tremendous what they’ve been able to do in terms of re-inventing themselves,” O’Rourke said. “Going through that adversity and coming back even stronger.”
The annual Southwest Florida Blue Chip Community Business Award program is sponsored by BB&T-Oswald Trippe and Company and BB&T Bank. Chambers said he hopes that Marine Concepts/JRL Ventures serves as an example for other businesses to not have a “fold-up-the-tent,” “wait-and-see” attitude.
“I think it’s absolutely imperative that businesses start looking forward,” he said.
Chambers added that the award is reflective of their incredible staff.
“They have fought hard,” he said.
The company was selected from a field of 13 for the Blue Chip award.
Marine Concepts/JRL Ventures recently was also named “Manufacturer of the Year” in the category of businesses with more than 50 to 125 employees by the Manufactures Association of Florida.